Jennifer Martin who writes the always-informative Italian wine travel blog, VinoTravelsItaly.com, graciously posted an interview she recently conducted with me regarding my labor of love. We’re so close to crossing my Kickstarter campaign’s funding goal line and then some — and I am so grateful to my backers for their generous support – but pledges are still needed to change to 97% to 100%!
The glue that has held cultures together through time has been food, most importantly the family meal. The energetic dynamic in the kitchen as the food is prepared is matched only by the enjoyment of traditional dishes shared around the dining table. I’ve been blessed to be a guest around several family tables in Piemonte which is a quite an honor and evidence of acceptance. Those are epicurean memories I shall cherish forever.
Given the beauty of the simplicity and flavors of the cucina piemontese, I asked some of my wine families to share with me their favorite recipes for traditional dishes. Silvia Altare, one of Lucia and Elio Altare‘s two daughters, shared with me her recipe for one of the classics of cucina piemontese – Vitello Tonnato.
I don’t just love vitello tonnato because it’s such a delicious dish, but it reminds me of the cultural importance of gumbo in bayou country Lousiana where I was born and raised. Everyone has their own twist on the dish and the recipe becomes part of a family’s heritage as it’s passed from generation to generation.
So here is Silvia’s recipe in her own words:
Silvia Altare’s Vitello Tonnato
I have learned cooking and from my mom and I love it!
Actually, both Elio and Lucia are good cooks. Lucia can set a wedding lunch for 30 people in 1 hour!
Here is the recipe of Vitello Tonnato, super quick and easy, everyone loves it. Even vitello tonnato sandwiches are a big deal here in my family, sometimes that’s what you get when you don’t have time to sit down for lunch!
1 big chunk of ”girello di vitello”, which I think translates in English with veal roast beef, to be either roasted in the oven or boiled with water and vegetables (carrots, celery, and onions)
The time of cooking is always suggested by the local butcher, very important you want the meat to stay pink inside.
Let it rest until cold, so any extra juice or blood is eliminated. When cold and dry then you can slice it very thin, if possible with a slicer.
2 eggs (1 yolk and 1 full egg)
Pinch of salt
Put eggs and salt in a mixer glass, and start mixing with an immersion blender, start adding the sunflower oil very little at a time, and you will see your mixture texture magically turn from liquid to thick. Keep adding oil until the quantity of mayo you want is made. Finish with a couple teaspoons of lemon juice. It adds a little acidity and makes the mayo taste “lighter”
(Wine buying note: In Colorado, Giuliana Importsrepresents the Altare family and many other Piemontese wine families. And they also import fabulous artisanal olive oils that are available direct to consumers.)
Suzanne’s Note – Silvia didn’t have any photos of her dish to share in time for me to post, so here is one of Villa Tiboldi’s Vitello Tonnato.
As I was flipping through photographs from my book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte,I recalled how those beautiful mother-daughter relationships in Piemonte’s wine country motivated me during my labor of love. So I thought I’d share some photos from my files of wonderful mothers of Piemonte.
With 16 days left in myKICKSTARTER project, I thought today would be a great time for a sneak peek at this blessed vintner who is just a miracle or two away from sainthood.
The Last Marchesa of Barolo GIULIA COLBERT FALLETTI
With the reluctant permission of her husband and father, Giulia began to visit the prison frequently. The abuse she endured transformed into trust as Giulia befriended many women prisoners and led them to Christianity. Giulia traveled to England and across Europe to study the prison reforms that were under way. But it was not enough for Giulia to improve the hygiene and living conditions of the incarcerated women. She saw a dire need to provide the women with skills they needed to be able to contribute to society upon their release.
Giulia believed the cycle of poverty and sin these women endured had to be broken. She established a school for girls and women of all means to learn to sew and keep house. Giulia and Tancredi converted part of the ground floor of their grand Turin home into a kindergarten where working poor parents could leave their children in a safe environment to learn while they worked. Both within Turin and outside its gates, Giulia spread the love and money she could not lavish on her own children to those in need. By day, the ground floor of the Palazzo Barolo was a refuge and a place of hope for the needy, but when night fell, minds met above in Giulia’s salon.
In 1825, King Carlo Felice named Tancredi, who was then a state counselor, mayor of Turin. Tancredi’s piety and compassion for the poor and dispossessed that he shared with Giulia influenced his four-year tenure as mayor, during which time he pursued groundbreaking changes in Piemonte’s capital city. During the frigid winter of 1825 – 1826, Tancredi distributed bread and firewood to the poor. He established a bank for small savings and a free school for arts and artisanal crafts, paved roads, beautified the city with gardens and fountains, and pursued other projects to improve public hygiene and the well-being of Turin’s citizens.
Tancredi, like Giulia, was not content to provide the means for their charitable works. They were hands-on philanthropists. During the cholera outbreak of 1835, Tancredi fell seriously ill while caring for patients housed on the ground floor of the Palazzo Barolo. Three years later, upon the advice of her husband’s doctors, Giulia took Tancredi to the Veneto, where they believed the alpine air would aid his recovery. Tancredi fell seriously ill in Verona, so Giulia began the long trip home to Turin to arrange treatment for her husband. Alas, Tancredi never saw his beloved Turin again. On September 4, 1838, in Chiara, near Brescia in Lombardy, the last Marchese of the noble Falletti family of Barolo died in his wife’s arms.
Author’s note: I have Chiara Boschis of E. Pira e Figli to thank for the “introduction” to Giulia Falletti and Pierangelo Vacchetto for sharing his vast knowledge of Barolo’s history and the village’s beloved last Marchesa. Their contributions to my book – and my life – are precious to me.